Hands Across the Border

So Martin McGuinness is planning to shake hands with Queen Elizabeth.

My problem with the British Royal Family is more to do with being born into privilege than the fact they represent such unrelenting Britishness which I always abhored but more frequently nowadays ignore.

My father had an apt saying for people that did not merit coming under his notice. Don’t even ignore them he would say.

“By the lonely prison wall I heard a young girl calling, Michael, they are taking you away”

For her part the Queen of England has shaken hands with some fairly distasteful people. Distasteful to me. To her perhaps. To others. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. Saudi Princes, Augusto Pinochet, George Bush, Robert Mugabe, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa.

“For you stole Trevelyn’s corn, So the young might see the morn, Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay”

My daughter sings a wee song the refrain of which goes ‘So let us shine, you in your small corner and I in mine.’ Some day next week in a small corner of the Lyric Theatre this minor drama will play itself out. Martin, the alleged former commander of Oglaigh na hÉireann will shake hands with the Commander in Chief of the British Forces.

Last year when the House of Windsor descended on Ireland, the southerners couldn’t have been more sycophantic fawning over a British Queen. Since then Martin made his own pitch for Head of State and realised in the process that he was probably less popular in the Country whose freedom he has dedicated his life to, than the Monarch from whose chains he wished to unshackle his countrymen.

“By a lonely prison wall I heard a young man calling, Nothing matters Mary when you’re free”

Somewhere along the election road did Martin realise the futility of it? Today’s statement by Gerry Adams was interlaced with the sort of coded language designed assuage his more militant comrades. Sinn Fein are still sticking to their task. A United Ireland is still on the cards. Such is their sensitivity, that Martin rubbing hands with QE II won’t be photographed. That is a clinch too far.

How far we have come in the last few years. The pride of the Irish nation is at rock bottom after the bankers and the developers and the gobshites and the planners were let loose on the country. Truth be told they did more damage to Ireland than Martin and his comrades. The place has never been worse.

In the last week we have had a former Republican Hunger Striker turned developer assert his British identity in the bankruptcy court. Did he foresee that day would come on the blanket in the Kesh. The Irish soccer team’s abject capitulation caused a salvo of navel gazing not seen since Saipan as we asked are we a nation of competitors or cheerleaders cum beer leaders. Toasting every defeat with another pint of booze as the latest disaster befalls our hapless people.

“Against the Famine and the Crown, I rebelled they ran me down”

And the anthem that plays behind this farrago of faded green is the dirge-fest funereal Fields of Athenry that laments the single biggest disaster to befall our nation. Still it could be worse, I suppose it could be the dreaded Ireland’s Call, the Shoulder Song as my brother in law calls it.

Still, for Martin and Elizabeth Windsor, to give her republican name, Ireland is Calling.

“Now you must raise our child with dignity.”

Get on with it, behind closed doors if necessary, so we can all move on with the real business in hand.